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Toronto Wolfpack look to end regular season on a win as promotion playoffs loom


TORONTO — With 20 straight wins under their belt, there is little drama for the Toronto Wolfpack as the Betfred Championship regular season wraps up this weekend.

The transatlantic rugby league team clinched first place in the second-tier Championship standings back on July 21 with a win over Widnes. That was five games ago.

Toulouse Olympique, York City Knights, Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers have secured the other four playoff berths and there could be some movement among them this weekend before the five start battling for the lone promotion place up for grabs in the top-tier Super League.

On Saturday, Toronto (25-1-0, 50 points) hosts fourth-place Leigh (18-8-0, 36 points) at Lamport Stadium and second-place Toulouse (19-7-0, 38 points) plays at No. 5 Featherstone (17-9-0, 34 points). Third-place York (18-7-1, 37 points) visits No. 8 Halifax on Sunday.

While there may be no suspense over the Wolfpack's finish, coach Brian McDermott is focused on maintaining his team's winning ways ahead of the playoffs.

"It's hard to manage a loss," he said. "When you lose and if you get beat when you think you should have won, you've got to manage that."

"If we play poorly against Leigh, that takes some turning around for the playoffs," he cautioned.

McDermott says his word for the week has been humility.

"Just have the humility to know that as good as you are and as good as you think you are and as many games as we've won, there's a game out there that's going to put you on the ropes," he said. "And if it's a shock to you that we're on the ropes and you're sulking because we're on the ropes, you will lose."

"I'm really interested in what our attitude's like against Leigh," he added.

The two teams have plenty of ties with former Toronto coach Paul Rowley recruiting a number of players from his time with Leigh. Like Rowley, many of those ex-Centurions have since moved on. But the Leigh touring squad includes former Wolfpack players Ryan Brierley and Jake Emmitt.

Toronto is 4-0-0 all-time against Leigh. The Wolfpack won 14-8 when they met in Leigh in February.

Leigh saw its five-match winning streak snapped last weekend in a 24-23 loss to York.

Wolfpack forward Adam Sidlow is still carrying a calf injury and isn't expected to play Saturday. Fellow forward Darcy Lussick (calf) is questionable while McDermott said Bodene Thompson (knee) was 50-50 with a knee issue.

Toronto winger Matty Russell is one try from equalling Liam Kay's single-season team record (27, set in 2017).

Toulouse, which has won six straight, will retain second place if it equals or betters York's result.

If York loses to Halifax, Leigh could move into third by avoiding defeat in Toronto. But if Leigh loses — and no visitor has won in Toronto this season — Featherstone could climb to fourth with a victory over Toulouse.

The final standings determine the somewhat complicated playoff matchups under this season's revised promotion format.

The Wolfpack has a first-round bye while No. 2 plays No. 3 and No. 4 takes on No. 5.

Toronto will play the 2 vs. 3 winner in the one semifinal, with the victor advancing to the Grand Final. The 4 vs. 5 winner meets the 2 vs. 3 loser in the other semifinal with the victor advancing to face the loser of the first semifinal to decide the other Grand Final participant.

The Wolfpack will host all their playoff games by virtue of their first-place finish.

At the other end of the table, the relegation of Barrow Raiders (4-21-1) and Rochdale Hornets (1-25-0) has already been confirmed.

There was a different promotion format in place last season.

The top four teams in the Championship and the bottom four in the Super League played a round-robin with the top three sides securing their place in the top tier and No. 4 playing No. 5 to see who joined them.

Three Super League teams — Salford Red Devils, Leeds Rhinos and Hull Kingston Rovers — and Toronto all finished the playoffs with a 5-2-0 record but the Wolfpack finished fourth on point differential.

Toronto then lost to the visiting London Broncos 4-2 in the Million Pound Game, making for another year in the Championship.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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